Australia's Emma Snowsill sprinted away from the pack at the start of the run and opened up a commanding lead before coasting home to win the women's Olympic triathlon gold medal on Monday by more than a minute.
Snowsill, a three-times world champion back on peak after a shaky 2007, was out in front soon after the lead pack ditched their bikes and surged ahead in the last leg of the swim-bike-run event to decisively beat Portuguese rival Vanessa Fernandes.
The much-hyped duel between the two favorites was decided in the first 2km of the 10-km run when the sparrow-sized Snowsill opened up a 20-second lead and widened it over four laps on the course at the Ming Tombs reservoir north of Beijing.
"I was running scared," an elated Snowsill, 27, told a news conference. "There's nothing better than being scared that every competitor wants to get in front of you.
"I knew I had to get out there and clear away from as many people as quickly as possible."
Snowsill, her fingernails painted in the team colors of yellow and green, had time to collect an Australian flag from the crowd and slap hands with cheering spectators as she approached the finish line one minute 6.97 seconds ahead of Fernandes.
Fernandes, five times European champion and ranked world number one, was gracious in defeat.
"This medal is silver but it's like gold to me. It means a lot to me and a little country like Portugal," she said after bear-hugging Snowsill. "The run decided this race," she added.
Snowsill's team mate Emma Moffatt won bronze, meaning double glory for the Australians.
"It's an amazing day for Australia, gold and bronze," said Moffatt, as she and Snowsill embraced each other and draped themselves in their flags.
Triathlon, whose spirit of all-round fitness fits well with the Olympics, has proved a hit with spectators since its debut at the 2000 Sydney Games. Beijing's stands were packed out.
Athletes were relieved to see blue skies and a dip in Beijing's stifling humidity, although baking temperatures of nearly 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) had them dousing themselves with water.
A serious crash during the bike race knocked over half a dozen triathletes from the back of the lead group and Russia's Irina Abyssova, Canada's Lauren Groves and the Czech Republic's Lenka Zemanova were taken away for treatment.
Austria's Athens gold medalist Kate Allen lost valuable seconds at the first transition when she went to the wrong bike position and tried to put on another athlete's helmet.
"I can't believe it," said Allen, who finished 14th. "I was so unconcentrated."